Max Pacioretty
The Max Pacioretty trade has officially come back to haunt the Golden Knights. It could mark the turning point in closing the Knights title window. (David Becker/AP)

The Max Pacioretty Trade Has Officially Haunted The Golden Knights

The 2020-2021 Season for the Golden Knights will officially go down as the biggest choke job in franchise history. The Knights have been an instant contender since joining the NHL. Vegas has had their fair share of shortcomings come playoff time, but the loss to Montreal in the Semi Final should hurt more than any other. Mostly because they only have themselves to blame.

Vegas seemed on top of the world after taking out the juggernaut Avalanche. They didn’t just beat Colorado. They took down the Avalanche in four straight after losing the first two games in the series. All the Knights had to do was take out the young upstart Canadiens to return to the Stanley Cup Final. Keep in mind that they were a team that finished in fourth place in the shitty North division.

It’s no secret that Cole Caufield has given Montreal a boost. However, the Canadiens were outmanned, outgunned, and outschemed (Dominique Ducharme got COVID mid-series) before the puck was dropped. Somehow, Vegas got outplayed virtually every step of the way, and they only have themselves to blame.

Max Pacioretty is a great player, but that trade likely will go down as the defining moment why Vegas didn’t win the Stanley Cup this year. In fact, it might be the trade that closes this current window. Pacioretty, 32, had 51 points in 48 games this year but has started to look like he’s lost a step.

The top line against Montreal in the six game series defeat was basically helpless. Pacioretty found the back of the net once, but that’s not the story here. Pacioretty is no longer the best player in the trade. Nick Suzuki is and would look perfect in a Golden Knights uniform right now, given the lack of depth Vegas has at center.

Pacioretty requested a trade from Montreal during the 2018 NHL offseason and was traded to Vegas in exchange for second-round draft pick, Tomas Tatar, and Nick Suzuki. On the surface, not a huge haul, but it’s come back to haunt the Knights.

A: Suzuki helped take down the Knights in the Conference Finals.

B: Suzuki is flat out better than Pacioretty as of now.

C: Cody Glass stinks. The Knights kept the wrong prospect.

D: When Chandler Stephenson got hurt, the Knights had zero capability centermen outside of Nicolas Roy (Who’s okay at best)

E: Pacioretty should now be considered a bad contract.

AND… That’s the big one. What Suzuki would have given Vegas is a young emerging center who makes pennies on a team that already has cap issues. Pacioretty is set to earn a $7 million cap hit the next two years – and probably doesn’t deserve that kind of payday heading into his mid 30’s.

Alec Martinez and forwards Tomas Nosek and Mattias Janmark are unrestricted free agents this offseason. Zach Whitecloud will be a restricted free agent the following offseason with virtually no way to retain him as of now.

The Knights’ defense is Stanley Cup Caliber. It’s the offense that has prevented them from hoisting the Cup. This year was a defining moment. The Knights Power Play should be described as nothing short of awful. The unit ranked 22nd with a 17.8% conversion rate. The postseason conversion rate of 9.3% ain’t it, chief. That starts and ends with Pacioretty, who is getting paid to make sure pucks go in nets.

The second line of William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and Reilly Smith have been together for a line time and have built up chemistry. It’s up to that top line to create more offense. Mark Stone is a great two way player, but he can’t do it alone. In order to salvage their Cup chances, the Knights have to somehow undo the mistake that first prevented it.

Does anybody want Pacioretty at that price tag? I would guess not but it’s the NHL. Teams do stupid things all the time.

I’ve brought this up, but why not explore swapping Pacioretty for Evander Kane? The Sharks are amendment they can still contend (No idea why) but clearly need to shake things up. Kane scored 22 goals this year in the shortened season, carrying a terrible San Jose team. He’s also three years younger with the same average annual value. The contract extends longer. Get the Sharks maybe to retain a bit of money for a price?

Of course, Kane might not fit Vegas (Insert gambling joke here), but those are the sort of things the Knights should explore.

This isn’t meant to disparage Max Pacioretty. He is a really good player who can still rack up points. However, there is no denying finding an upgrade at the left wing along the first line feels like the most logical solution to find more offense. The Knights allowed the fewest goals in the league and led the NHL in blocked shots. Finding more guys to put pucks in nets should be the offseason priority list.

Sometimes the best moves are the ones you don’t make. It’s obvious more than ever the Knights should have just held onto Suzuki and found a way to use that cap space in more intelligent ways. The Max Pacioretty trade has come back to haunt the Golden Knights. If Vegas wants to lift the cup for the first time, undoing that mistake should be the first thing they do this upcoming offseason.

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